Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: STC presents ‘Blithe Spirit’ at Sydney Opera House

Courtney Act

Courtney Act in Blithe Spirit. Photo: Prudence Upton.

Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is the perfect choice of production to present to audiences starved of good old-fashioned FUN.

Coward wrote the play in 1941, perhaps with the idea of taking the mind of the British public off the war. And perhaps this is why the play was chosen for Sydney audiences who had endured isolation and lockdown for so long.

I saw an 80-year-old Angela Lansbury play Madame Arcati in a 2009 Broadway revival and didn’t think it could be bettered.

But director Paige Rattray brought Coward’s drawing-room comedy to life, and proved that an Australian production could outshine the Broadway show.

Matt Day

Matt Day in Blithe Spirit. Photo: Prudence Upton.

The elegant drawing room (designed by David Fleischer) is in the house belonging to Mr Charles (Matt Day) and Mrs Ruth (Bessie Holland) Condamine. Charles is a writer, and as his next book is about the occult, he invites local clairvoyant Madame Arcati (Brigid Zengeni) to conduct a séance.

He also invites Doctor (Tracy Mann) and Mrs Bradman (Nancy Denis).

During the séance, Madame Arcati falls into a trance, and lo and behold, who should appear but Elvira, Charles’ first wife, played with high camp humour by drag queen Courtney Act.

This sets in train a quick succession of amusing incidents, with witticisms flying in all directions, and Elvira flouncing about the stage in a gorgeous satin dressing gown and showing off plenty of thigh.

Brigid Zengeni

Brigid Zengeni in Blithe Spirit. Photo: Prudence Upton.

Megan Wilding played Edith the maid, and although she had few words to say, her body language kept the audience in stitches whenever she appeared on stage.

In the second half, the drawing-room is wrecked by invisible furies who upset the furniture, pull books out of bookshelves, and cause other objects to fall and break or explode. Magic and Illusions Consultant Adam Mada no doubt had a hand in these effects.

For two hours of silly unadulterated fun, treat yourself with tickets to STC’s Blithe Spirit!

Until May 14. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $54-$109+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyoperahouse.com

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